I bet you are full of mixed emotions right now. Happy, because you now know why your child isn't making the progress they should be. Grieving - for what you think might have been their future and you think may not happen now. And uncertainty because you don't know what to do. This post is about what you can do in those first days once you know that your child is dyslexic.
1.Put together a good picture of your child.
What I mean by this, is to start listing the areas your child needs help with but also list all the things they are good at or enjoy doing. For example, is your child struggling with their reading skills ( this includes reading single words but also extends to whether they can remember what they have been reading); are their writing and spelling skills the key areas for concern? Do they have trouble with completing work in the time allocated or is concentration the problem area for them?
It is also important to focus on the positive side of them - what do they enjoy doing either at school or out of school? What are they really good at?
By going through this exercise, you are starting to look at your child as a whole, rather than as a set of difficulties which is a really negative approach for anyone to take. It is also giving you the basis of your discussions with your child's school. If you have got to grips with their challenges, then there is more chance that you can communicate clearly with the school and have a hand in the interventions which are put into place. You don't have to have specialist knowledge to do this -your dyslexia assessment should make recommendations for specialist programmes that the school should follow.
The one thing that comes through loud and clear from all the parents I talk to is that you are now your child's advocate and therefore the responsibility is on you to understand your child better than anyone else.
2.Make sure you understand the report from the Educational Psychologist.
They are not that easy to read! I would urge you to ask questions so that you fully understand what tests they did and why. You must also understand what the results show for your child. These reports can make for quite brutal reading because they concentrate on the negatives rather than positives ( something I personally think should change - there must be a balance in there!) but they do contain really important information about how your child's brain works at the moment.
As stated above, the report will also make recommendations for programmes that your child should follow. These can also form the basis of your discussion with your child's school.
3. Make an appointment to meet with the school's SENCo.
There are a few things which will need to be discussed here and it depends on how far behind your child is and what difficulties have been identified in the Educational Psychologist report. Take in with you your own list of challenges that you know your child has and then you can start to have a good discussion about how the school is going to help. You should also discuss whether you need to apply for an Educational Healthcare Plan - usually reserved for those who have complex needs or are falling vey behind at school.
Your child's school should at the very least put together an Individual Education Plan for your child and you will receive a copy of this. In the experience of many parents, you will need to check that the school is actually doing what they say they are. Many of my students do miss their interventions due to staff absences - as a one off this may be tolerated by you but you will need to ensure that this isn't happening on a regular basis.
There will be a review process to check on the progress being made by your child. Again, being aware of how the challenges are changing for your child and the progress that you think they have made is invaluable so that you can have a meaningful discussion with your child's SENCo during a review meeting.
4. Decide if the school interventions are enough.
Sometimes your child will not receive as much help as they need from school. Many parents of dyslexic children either spend a lot of time helping their children with their challenges or they employ a private specialist dyslexia tutor to help them after school.
You must balance out how much time is spent helping your child with their academic skills and time spent on activities they are going to enjoy more. However, this extra one to one support can be invaluable for dyslexic students as it is their chance to ask questions which they may not want to at school. It is also a chance for them to receive completely individualised support which can help speed up their progress or ensure they do make progress.
5. Encourage your child in their interests and passions.
This is really important so that your child keeps up their self esteem and confidence. Your child will be spending a lot of time at school on activities which they find really difficult so they must spend as much time as possible on activities they love out of school. Depending on the age of your child, you could make most of the weekend time that they get to do what they most want to do.
You do need to be aware that some dyslexic children really suffer from low self esteem if they feel they fail a lot of the time. Building them up and staying positive about their skills is as important as dealing with their academic challenges.
In summary, when you first find out your child is dyslexic then you should make a list of their challenges and their strengths; read and understand the educational psychologists report; make an appointment with your school's SENCo to discuss how they are going to help;consider if you need to do any extra help at home and finally, encourage your child's interests and passions.
If you would like your child to understand their dyslexia ,their strengths and challenges, please come and join my 'Smashing Dyslexia' programme. You can find out more about it here.
I offer consultation meetings online or in person, depending on where you are. You can use this time to discuss your concerns and receive guidance and advice from a dyslexia specialist. Please contact me to discuss further.
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